Picture this: you’ve spent the last six to twelve months organizing an event, coordinating logistics, and scheduling your content. But when the big day comes, nobody shows up. 

A situation like this is a doomsday scenario for an event planner. However, it’s one that can be avoided if you have a well-defined event marketing strategy on your side. After all, in-person, hybrid, and virtual events rarely sell themselves, no matter how engaging or exciting they might be.

If you want to attract as many potential attendees as possible, it pays to have a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote your event. However, planning that campaign is easier said than done. Whether you have a team of marketers or just a single person running the show, you need to know exactly what it takes to achieve event marketing success.

The good news? You’re in the right place. To simplify the process, here’s what you need to know about marketing and event promotion.

What is event marketing?

Simply put, event marketing involves hosting or participating in an event to promote a brand, product, or service to the target audience. Event marketers generally focus on two key areas of event promotion: B2C and B2B.

B2C event marketing involves promoting directly to your target audience—the customer—with the goal that they’ll register for the event or invite others to join them. On the other hand, companies who engage in B2B event marketing are focused on enticing other businesses (and their employees) to attend the event, participate as an exhibitor, or engage as a sponsor.

Why is event marketing important?

The event planning industry is an increasingly competitive market. In fact, according to Allied Market Research, the global event industry will continue to grow at a rate of 11.2% through 2028. 

With more and more competitors entering the market, it’s becoming harder for an event organizer to stand out from the crowd. In a nutshell, this is what event promotion is all about. By initiating an event marketing campaign, you can not only differentiate your event from competitors, but you can also reach your target audience across various marketing channels simultaneously. In turn, a successful marketing effort can:

  • Build brand awareness and affinity: According to Visme, 74% of event attendees say they think more positively about a company after their marketing event.
  • Drive lead generation: A physical or virtual event is a great way for marketers to expand their database of leads and convert an attendee into a loyal customer. Even if an attendee doesn’t convert at the event, you can still nurture them through the sales process after the event is over.
  • Increase attendee engagement: Meeting and interacting with event attendees in a real-time environment is a great opportunity to foster a deeper customer relationship and deliver a more connected experience.
  • Boost event revenue: The more you promote your event, the greater chance you have of maximizing ticket sales and increasing event ROI. In fact, 83% of brands say that event marketing has consistently increased their sales.

Considering these many advantages, it’s no wonder that over half of marketers say event marketing drives more business value than any other marketing channel. For this reason, event marketing and promotion are essential to the event planning process.

Types of marketing events

The beauty of event marketing is that there’s practically no limit to the types of events you can plan—especially now that they can be hosted virtually. Whether it be a trade show, conference, product launch, or even a scavenger hunt, almost any type of event can play a big role in your marketing campaign.

That said, event marketers generally lump events into three distinct categories: in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.

In-person events

Although in-person events staggered during the pandemic, they’ve now rebounded back to their rightful place in the event planning industry. At least 42% of event planners hosted an in-person event in 2021, according to an EventMB survey. This type of live event takes place in a physical venue where event attendees can engage with brands, sponsors, exhibitors, and other attendees face to face. 

The value of physically interacting with your target audience cannot be underestimated. In-person events offer brands the opportunity to deliver unique and engaging experiences that attendees won’t soon forget.

Take a trade show, for instance. Trade shows are large exhibitions where vendors showcase their newest products and features. Not only is this a chance for event attendees to get their hands on the latest and most exciting goods, it’s also a great way for marketers to leave a lasting impression on a potential customer.

Virtual events

Any type of online event that is experienced exclusively over the internet can be considered virtual. In contrast to in-person events, a virtual attendee accesses content over an event management platform on a computer or mobile device.

Hosting a virtual event can be a more cost-effective, flexible, and accessible alternative to traditional events. Because the event content is entirely experienced over the internet, potential attendees don’t need to pay for travel expenses, hotel accommodations, food, or any other costs associated with attending an in-person event. 

But most importantly, virtual events aren’t limited by the size of the venue. In turn, organizers can drive more ticket sales, attract more attendees, and engage with more prospects. 

For example, a virtual conference is an online event where participants gather to experience content of a similar topic or general category. With the help of technology, event attendees can digitally interact with sponsors and learn more about brands—all without leaving the comfort of their homes.

Hybrid events

A hybrid event is a combination of the in-person and virtual event experience. By adding a virtual component, an event organizer can expand their reach and cater to a larger portion of the target audience.

Hybrid events are increasingly becoming the go-to format for event marketers. In fact, the latest data from EventMB estimates that 63% of companies see their events becoming hybrid in the future. Why? Because they can offer two distinct experiences under the same connected event. Not only does this mean they can create more diverse revenue opportunities between in-person and online ticket sales, but they can also leverage the advantages of either experience.

MAD//Fest, for example, is the largest marketing festival in the U.K. Although originally only an in-person event, COVID-19 forced its planners to go virtual. Now, MAD//Fest is back and embracing the hybrid format to more than 23,000 virtual and in-person attendees. 

Want to learn more about how MAD//Fest pioneered the hybrid experience? Read the full story now.

How to plan an event marketing program

No matter your choice of event, one thing remains the same: you need to secure as many attendees as necessary for the event to be a success. In other words, it’s time to launch an event marketing campaign.

And to do that, you’ll have to do some forward thinking. A successful marketing campaign doesn’t just happen overnight—it needs to be thoroughly mapped out, measured, and adjusted over time. To help make this process easier, let’s explore the basic process of planning an event marketing campaign:

1. Setting the event goal

Deciding on an event goal is one of the most important decisions you can make as an event organizer. Not only does it decide what you want to get out of the event, but it also determines what a successful marketing campaign should look like. By choosing a goal, you in turn choose the metrics that measure performance—so choose wisely!

Here’s an example: if your event goal is to maximize attendance, tracking the number of registrations allows you to see if you’re on the right track before your event begins. Comparing this metric with event check-ins can give you a more accurate picture of how many registrants are converting into real attendees.

2. Identifying your target audience

Before you can attach a marketing strategy to your campaign, you need to understand your target audience. Conducting market research will help you understand what potential attendees will want from the experience and how you can best attract them to the event.

Think about your target audience and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What marketing channels does your target audience use?
  • What are their purchasing behaviors?
  • What type of content do they like to consume?
  • What are their values?
  • What are their interests?

Questions like these enable you to optimize your marketing strategy and target potential attendees with the right messaging at the right time. The more information you put into your marketing strategy, the better you can determine which marketing tactics are right for the job.

3. Budgeting your event marketing program

The marketing budget will determine how much you’re willing to spend on event promotion. If you’re new to event marketing, consider all the potential costs associated with your marketing effort. Think about how you’ll use each marketing channel and how much it’ll cost to produce content. If you have historical data to pull from, review your past events to get a sense of what your budget should look like.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside a small percentage of your funds as a contingency. This way, you’ll have a little more wiggle room in your budget to continue marketing tactics that are performing well.

4. Developing event content

When it comes to event marketing, there are two fundamental types of content that drive event success. First, there’s the content that an attendee can consume while they’re participating in the event, such as a breakout session, panel discussion, concert, or exhibition. For the most part, this is the content that draws potential attendees to the event in the first place.

Second, there’s the content that goes into promoting the event itself. This could include interviews with guest speakers, blog content, display ads, social media posts, or basically anything that advertises the event. This type of content is what you’ll use to generate buzz before the big day and drive interested people toward your event.

5. Mapping the journey

This is where your market research continues to pay off. Because you already know so much about your target audience, you can now map the attendee journey from beginning to end.

In simple terms, this involves identifying the best opportunities you have to wow your audience at every stage of the event lifecycle. From their very first touchpoint, which might be a blog or a social media post, to several weeks after they’ve attended your event, you can send the right message at exactly the right time. In turn, you increase the likelihood they’ll register, attend, and engage with your organization during and long after the event is over.

6. Scheduling your timeline

Event marketing has a lot of moving parts, and it can be difficult to keep track of them all simultaneously. Creating a complete, end-to-end timeline of your marketing campaign can provide an overview of everything you’re doing to promote the event. 

For in-person or hybrid events, It’s best to start marketing your event at least six months before. As for virtual events, give yourself anywhere between three and six months to generate interest. Remember, you also need enough time to do your research, create a strategy, and develop content.

Stick closely to your timeline so that you don’t miss out on any opportunities to engage with your target audience. That said, don’t be afraid to make adjustments as needed. You may discover new opportunities over time that will require additional planning.

Driving attendance to your event

Now that you’ve narrowed down your event marketing strategy, how are you going to execute it? The tactics you use to carry out your strategy are important. They’re how you communicate the value of your event to potential attendees, which means they have a major impact on whether or not they actually show up. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the event marketing tactics you can use to drive attendance to your event. 

The event website

At the very least, you need to create an event website. More often than not, if a person is interested in your event the first thing they’ll do is search for more information. That’s why roughly 60% of event planners rank their event website as one of their top marketing channels, according to Skift research. When creating your event website, ensure it has all the necessary information an attendee needs, including:

  • A description of the event
  • The event date, time, and location
  • Speaker bios or entertainment information
  • Ticket prices
  • Registration information
  • An agenda or schedule of the event
  • Transportation and parking information
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Contact information

Your event website should make it easy for visitors to register on the spot. Make sure you include a registration page where interested people can quickly purchase a ticket or sign-up for the event.

Content marketing

A good way to get your event website ranking at the top of the search results is to practice search engine optimization (SEO). By optimizing your webpage with content marketing—blog posts, landing pages, pillar pages—you can place higher on the search engine response page.

Share tips potential attendees can use to make the most of their event experience. Or, write educational posts your audience might want to know more about. From speaker bios and interviews to recaps and more, there’s no limit to what you can do to generate buzz before, during, and after your event.

Email marketing

Send targeted emails before the event to attract potential attendees or remind registrants about the upcoming event. Be sure you include a value proposition in every email; people don’t like to be spammed with useless information.

Here’s a tip: don’t send your audience too many emails. If you do, you risk frustrating them and driving them away from the event entirely. To avoid any negative outcomes, it’s best to leverage email marketing software that allows you to review, schedule, and segment emails for your contact list.

Social media marketing

With nearly 4 billion social media users worldwide, social media marketing is easily one of the most impactful marketing tactics at your disposal. Event marketers can leverage social media to easily reach potential attendees and interact with them in a real-time engagement. As a two-way channel, it’s also one of the most common ways people expect to learn more about an event.

Think about which social media platforms your audience uses, and start engaging them on these channels. Take advantage of hashtags, paid advertising, and sponsored posts to maximize exposure. 

Sponsorships and speakers

Your sponsors are directly invested in the success of your event—so why not lean on them for help? Ask sponsors to promote the event on social media, their own website, and other channels they might use. The bigger the sponsor, the greater the opportunity you have to reach a wider audience.

Guest speakers are also a great way to spread the word. Ask your lineup of presenters and panelists to promote the event on their social platforms to get their fans interested in the festivities.

Event marketing technology and software

It goes without saying that event marketing is no simple process. There’s a lot that goes into a successful event marketing campaign, from the earliest stages of ideation to the very last email sent out to your audience. That’s why it’s best to have an end-to-end event management platform on your side.

Not only can such a platform streamline event planning, but it’s also an invaluable marketing tool. Let’s take a closer look at the capabilities you need to have in event technology.

Registration software

As a critical component of your event website, you need to be fully in control of your registration page. The best platforms offer ticketing and registration software that can be customized to your specific requirements. Match the look and feel to your brand, and tailor the registration form to ensure you’re collecting the right data.

Whether it be an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, it pays to have a dynamic ticketing experience.

Custom mobile app

Look for an event technology provider that enables you to create your own mobile event app. Having a mobile app doesn’t just mean your attendees have another way to experience the event—it also means you have a new way to reach them directly.

From banner ads and push notifications to profiles and more, you can send targeted messaging that drives engagement to you and your sponsors. The result? More conversions and more ROI.

Immersive event experiences

Event technology is changing the way people experience events. Gamification, for example, increases engagement by challenging attendees to a friendly competition. Whether it be making the most connections or interacting with the most sponsors, participants can be rewarded for their effort.

Other engagement tools, like live polling and Q&A sessions, invite attendees to participate in discussions and interact with panelists. By welcoming attendees to join in on the activities, you can easily deliver an unforgettable experience.

Built-in analytics and reporting tools

According to Harvard Business Review, just 23% of companies say they can track event ROI. Fortunately, that issue is solved by event technology. With a proper platform, you can easily measure event success by tracking real-time analytics—accessible in both the event dashboard and the mobile app. With proof of ROI in hand, you can satisfy stakeholders and attract new sponsorships for your next event.

Support your marketing strategy with Webex Events

When it comes to event technology, you shouldn’t have to worry about making trade-offs. You deserve all the necessary features and capabilities you need to ensure your event lives up to the hype.

With Webex Events, that’s exactly what you get. You can manage everything in a single centralized platform. From event marketing and planning to sponsorships, engagement, networking, and more, you have access to all the tools you need to achieve your goals and deliver on your promises.

Schedule a free demo today to discover how Webex Evens can simplify your event marketing effort today.

Olivia VanCuren
Olivia VanCuren

Content Marketing Specialist @ Webex Events (formerly Socio). Words enthusiast. Passionate about events that foster meaningful connections.